"The past actually happened but history is only what someone wrote down." A. Whitney Brown.

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San Juan Archipelago, Washington State, United States
A society formed in 2009 for the purpose of collecting, preserving, celebrating, and disseminating the maritime history of the San Juan Islands and northern Puget Sound area. Check this log for tales from out-of-print publications as well as from members and friends. There are circa 650, often long entries, on a broad range of maritime topics; there are search aids at the bottom of the log. Please ask for permission to use any photo posted on this site. Thank you.

1979 ❖ STEAMING DOWN THE STREET with Engineer Tommy

Engineer Thomas Thompson
Longtime mariner from McConnell Island,
San Juan Archipelago, WA
and Shell Refinery engineer, Anacortes, WA.
Photo back stamped 28 July 1979
Original Photo by Cole Porter
from the archives of the Saltwater People Historical Society©
"The Anacortes Railway, a magnificent backyard-built locomotive and parlor car, will chug down Commercial Avenue from Fourth Street to the Port dock on Guemes Channel next weekend.
      There it will connect with the historic steamer VIRGINIA V which will offer excursions during Anacortes' combined centennial celebration and the 18th annual Arts and Crafts Festival. 
      Thomas Thompson, Jr., a Shell Refinery engineer, will be at the throttle of the coal-burning locomotive, which runs on 18-inch gauge track.
      Thompson, a life-long steam buff, started building the locomotive in 1967 and the parlor car last December. He even designed the depot from which patrons will buy tickets.
      The project took thousands of hours and required the building of a foundry behind Thompson's house on Campbell Lake. There are 50-ft of test track in the backyard.
      'It would be impossible to estimate the cost,' Thompson said. 'I have justified it by saying it represents all the money I have saved by not smoking or drinking.'
      The Anacortes Railway will run on 840-ft of the temporary rack during the centennial celebration. If it captures the imagination of city fathers and residents, it eventually may run 3.3 miles on the old Great Northern grade to the ferry terminal at Ship Harbor, pulling up to 12 open excursion cars." 
Text from the Seattle Times 28 July 1979. 
The above was posted October 2018 and we do not see the train tracks being laid yet, but we hope to see it "catch the imagination of city fathers."

1961, December. Railroad Model Craftsman. 
In an article by the late great live-steamer, author/historian, Bill Durham, he writes of the steam-powered McConnell Island Narrow Gauge Railway, located on Thompson's 30-acre island with 400 yards of track, thus far. [This was 18 years before the top photo.] 
      The line is a gauge 9 1/2" with a seriously worn-down free-lance 4-4-0 built many years ago by a Chicago, Burlington & Quincy R.R. shop foreman. Thomas ran across it, and other equipment, in Everett several years ago, and bought it. On the island, 
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Thompson had craggy headlands to switchback up, low soggy ground, and old-growth forest where the track had to defer to 5-ft thick fir trees. The rail, obtained at low cost, is a shape rolled originally for the construction of garden furniture.
      The island shop is a rudimentary maintenance and fueling shed, with a small foundry that is better suited to the woods than to a city lot. In Tom's well-equipped main shop a 2-6-0 Mogul, a 1/3 scale Denver and South Park narrow gauge, has its running gear nearly completed. When the new engine arrives on the island it will revitalize an underequipped frontier line that is constantly struggling for survival against the forest and the sea.


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